April 25th, 2017
Lack Of Coordination Between Blood Banks & Hospitals Wasted 6 Lakh Litres Of Blood In The Last 5 Years
A Right To Information (RTI) petition filed by activist Chetan Kothari with the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) revealed serious loopholes in the nation’s blood banking system. In the last five years, over 28 lakh units of blood and its components were discarded by banks across India.
When calculated in litres, the 6% cumulative wastage translates to more than 6 lakh litres of blood – which is enough to fill 53 tankers.
On an average, India faces a shortage of 3 million units of blood annually. Lack of blood, plasma or platelets often leads to maternal mortality as well as deaths in case of accidents that cause serious blood loss.
State-wise spoilage by blood banks
The states that fared the worst in the country in terms of not only discarding whole blood, but even red blood cells and plasma as the life-saving components could not be used before their expiry date, were Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
In 2016-17 alone, more than 6.57 lakh units of blood and its products were discarded.
The most troubling part is that 50% of the units wasted were of plasma, which has a shelf life of one year, much longer than the 35-day deadline by which whole blood and red blood cells have to be used.
The only state to have crossed the one-million mark with regard to collection of blood units – Maharashtra – has also accounted for the maximum spoilage of whole blood, followed by the states of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
The top three positions in the wastage of red blood cells were bagged by Maharashtra, UP and Karnataka, with the latter two also wasting the maximum units of fresh frozen plasma.
Given that fresh frozen plasma is imported by several pharma companies to produce albumin, it is surprising that in 2016-17, over 3 lakh units of the product were discarded.
Around 56,000 litres of blood and its components were wasted in Tamil Nadu in the last 5 years – which is 5% of the total donations made, but the government, in an effort to reduce wastage, is in the process of drafting the state’s first blood policy.
Reasons for spoilage
The crisis of spoilage of blood can be blamed on the absence of a robust blood sharing network between banks and hospitals, according to crusaders of safe blood transfusion.
In many states, donation camps involving thousands of participants are set up by local politicians to use them as a tools to please constituents.
Dr Zarine Bharucha of the Indian Red Cross Society pointed out that a collection of up to 500 units was acceptable and manageable.
“But we have seen and heard of camps where 1,000 to 3,000 units are collected. Where is the place to store so much blood? Why can’t people walk into regular banks and donate once every three months?” she said, as reported by The Economic Times.
However, the head of the directorate of health services in Maharashtra argued that the wastage could be a “noble health plan to curtail maternal deaths”.
“We have created more than 200 storage centres in interior areas for emergencies. We would rather be prepared to save a life than worry about unused units of blood,” he said.
The Logical Indian Take
Last year too, RTI activist Chetan Kothari made a query with NACO which revealed that in the past 17 months starting May 2016, 2,234 persons across India were infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) while getting blood transfusions.
Kothari had said that the rise in the number of HIV cases is due to lack of awareness drives by the government and errs on the part of the hospitals and the blood banks as well.
His recent RTI application also points to a similar lack of regulations and implementation of stricter norms.
Though in some cases it is understandable that emergency stores of blood might go waste, spoilage in other areas, especially urban cities, where blood donation camps can be held at regular intervals cannot be justified.
In a country where shortage of blood is on a rise, wastage of imported fresh frozen plasma is troubling. This not only poses a threat on the lives of those who might require a blood transfusion, but is also a monetary loss.
All hospitals – private and public, blood banks and government authorities should implement proper regulations to prevent such loss in the future.